South Korea Food Additives Regulation

1. Definition

The term "food additives" means materials added to or mixed with foods or materials in the process of manufacturing, processing or preserving foods.

(*Note food additive is also used as a term in food contact material standards but for this article we will only deal with food additives as defined by the definition above).

Competent authority

Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, formerly known as Korea Food and Drug Administration, is responsible for the determination and public announcement of

  • Standards for manufacturing, processing, using, cooking or storing food additives;
  • Specifications for food additives.

2. Relevant regulations

  • The Food Additive Code guides the use of all additives in foods in Korea. Food additives should be authorized for use in food and have to comply with the specifications and usages approved in the Food Additive Code.
  • Food Sanitation Act

3. Classification of food additives

At present South Korea still implements a rather antiquated system in which food additives are classified as either “natural additives” or “synthetic additives”. As of May 2015, there are approximately 213 natural additives and 441 synthetic additives in the Food Additive Code. Besides, several mixed preparations, which are mixtures of food additives, have also been granted approval.

Food additives in Korea are registered on a product-by-product basis, which means a registered food additive can only be used in products after approval. The new classification system under discussion will give express definition of the functions of each food additive.

4. Approval of new food additives

Food additives are approved for use in different food categories or items based on the scientific evidence, toxicological evaluation and the justification for technological need, etc.

5. Labeling of food additives on food products

On food products food additives must be declared by full name, abbreviated name, or usage on the label. In Food Labeling Standards some special rules concerning the labeling of food additives have been laid down.

Food Labeling Standards - Enclosure 1 the Detailed Labeling Standards for Foods specifies:

  • The list of food additives which shall be declared by name and usage.
  • Those may include food additives used as synthetic sweetener, synthetic colorant, synthetic preservative, antioxidant, bleaching agent, synthetic sterilizer, etc.
  • The list of food additives which shall be declared by full name and abbreviated name
  • The list of food additives which shall be declared by name, abbreviated name and usage.

Important Notes:

  • Products added with aspartame shall be labeled with information related to phenylalanine content.
  • For food additives such as ammonium hydroxide, acetic acid, glacial acetic acid, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite and bleaching agents, precautionary words must be appropriately present, including “keep away from children”, “do not take directly” , “ Contact with eye or skin may cause fatal damages”, etc.
  • Where necessary the product shall be indicated free of additives such as synthetic preservatives and colorant which are prohibited in the Food Additive Code.